Rote memorization: Kindly review my technique. Am I doing it right?

Although rote memorization is not a “technique” but I’d like some feedback for what I do.

Why I ask this question? Because I don’t trust my brain. I’ve never tested its capacity before. I don’t know how and how much my brain can retain. This is the first time (not literally the first, but in a way) that I’m studying for a life changing examination. I’ll trust my brain, my capability if I had studied earlier and knew what works and what doesn’t work for me. Since I didn’t do it, everything’s trial and error for me. So, I seek your feedback.

What I do, currently: I take a paragraph. First sentence. Read. I’m not native English speaker so I read it again and try to speak fluently the whole sentence in one go. Then I count on my fingers and repeat that sentence 5-6 times. Then I check whether I’ve learned it by repeating it “one final time”. If I succeed, I move on the next sentence. If I fail, I get frustrated and try again. Every time I count the repetitions on my fingers.

This method is extremely tiring. I’ve used it to cram a night before the exams. I only retained what I crammed for one day. Therefore, I’m skeptical if this method is the “right one” to build a long term memory? Also, with this method, I almost always either can’t recall perfectly, on the second day revision, or forget everything I’d memorized in 2-3 days. This is why I’m really worried!

Other method: I take an additional notebook. Keep it on my book. Hide the paragraph beneath it, reveal sentence after sentence, read it, repeat it. And keep escalating. Here I don’t use my fingers.

I only know of these two ways. I mostly rely on the first way. I’ve started using palaces for concepts but I must memorize these subjects verbatim. Since these methods tire the hell out of me, I’m really scared if I’m doing it the right way. Or is there any other way to repeat, recall but not get so frustrated. I’m not scared of the hard work, but I’m scared of not doing it the right way. Since I already put a lot of hours into the first method of memorization, but unfortunately mostly forget/can’t recall without struggling, I’m worried why this is not working and what I’m doing wrong.


What kind of subject are you being tested on where you need to recite information verbatim? In my experience, you rarely ever have to memorize something verbatim.

Even if you do need to memorize verbatim, mnemonics are still the superior option over rote. I’d suggest using the keyword method, but you should search the forum to find a technique that best works for you.


That’s fatal! If you tire your brain or otherwise make it unhappy it will actually reject memories. Your brain tries to forget unpleasant experiences. Which is why cramming doesn’t work.

Plain repetition does work but it’s slow. If you read the text two or three times a day for a a week, that will make a difference.

You are using the standard Brute Force Method which is very inefficient, frustrating and can’t be rushed, much. This is all that’s taught to students in school. I think it’s negligent.

The memory techniques discussed here can help tremendously. It’s still work, it doesn’t come over night. But the results come reliably and fairly quickly if you practice. These techniques are not some new fangled, half baked education fad. These are ancient techniques that were used before the printing press became available and people depended heavily on their memories. If a scholar wanted a book, he would visit a library and memorize it!

You want properly spaced repetition - there are known formulas for this, how to time the review for maximum efficiency - but immediately repeating the text several times is not very effective. There’s a lot of discussion about this in the forum so I won’t repeat.

You need to form an attachment to the sentence. A mental image that persists and jogs your memory. Then you need a structure that holds these images and prompts you in the right order. There’s a lot of discussion about ways to do this in the forum. It’s all useful.

There are a variety of techniques - The Journey Method. The Memory Palace which can serve.

Some people here memorize texts verbatim. It’s a major activity among many devout Christians and Muslims to memorize their Holy Books. This is a specialized skill and there are particular techniques for it dating back to the Greeks. If that’s actually what you need, they can help you.

I rarely memorize substantial amounts of text verbatim. I prefer to memorize content which I organize as a Journey or a Memory Palace or Peg System.

There is a great deal of discussion here on both topics and techniques that really can help you a lot.

If you have well developed mnemonic skills, then you will be able to cram a lot of stuff into your brain quite quickly.

I wish you the best in your studies.


Let me ask you a question. Do you watch movies. Do you remember some scenes from your favorite movie. Can you recite the sequence of the events which happened in your favorite movie? Do you remember your favorite songs? I bet you have not memorized any of them right? This may give you some perspective of the capacity your brain has for retaining visuals, locations and rhymes.

You should try using the abbreviation ALI (A-Association, L-Location, I-Imagination explained by Dominic O’brien) to think about the ideas and use those associations and locations when you revise the material. This has helped me always and you may find that amazing capacity given that our brains is fond of locations.

Without any association of the material with your life, images and locations it will really become vague fast. Please try using the Memory Palace technique once and let us know your findings.